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Governor's Rural Challenge


In December 2012, Gov. Bill Haslam challenged the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the UT Institute of Agriculture to develop a strategy for ensuring the growth and prosperity of agriculture and forestry over the next decade. He set a goal of making Tennessee number one in the Southeast in the development of agriculture and forestry, and emphasized opportunities to increase farm income and agribusiness investment. The governor asked for "practical, affordable, actionable steps that we can take to propel the industry into the future." The strategic plan was presented to the governor in December 2013.

Governor's Rural Challenge: A 10-Year Strategic Plan, December 2013 [PDF, 4 Mb]

A year after its presentation to the governor, the Executive Committee provided the following report on areas in which implementation had begun or significant progress had been made toward making the plan a reality. The plan will continue to be reviewed and adapted as needed to remain on target with goals and objectives.

Governor's Rural Challenge: 2014 Progress Report [PDF, 2 Mb]


  • Continue to focus on rural job creation and economic development
  • Cultivate new agribusiness investments that lead to job creation and farm markets
  • Increase farm profitability
  • Develop public/private partnerships

Guiding Principles:

  • Facilitate and enhance private enterprise and initiative
  • Motivate private equity and identify innovative business relationships
  • Instill confidence in entrepreneurship and risk management
  • Take advantage of strengths and assets
  • Address supply chain gaps
  • Seek inclusive, broad-based input
  • Emphasize cooperation and collaboration


The strategic planning process will involve opportunities for public input and will utilize a variety of sources and means for gathering information. For quantitative evaluation and analysis, support will be provided by the UT Agri-Industry Modeling and Analysis Group, the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture. The process will also utilize testimony from private sector experts representing industry, logistics and infrastructure, and additional support from institutional partners including academia and USDA. Qualitative insight will be sought from stakeholders and the public through a steering committee, focus groups, surveys and public meetings.

Executive Committee:

  • Mr. Lacy Upchurch, President, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation
  • Dr. Larry Arrington, Chancellor, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
  • Commissioner Julius Johnson, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Steering Committee:

To facilitate strategic plan development, a steering committee of industry leaders is providing guidance in identifying key measures of success and making final recommendations. Steering committee members represent a broad range of agricultural and forestry interest including livestock, specialty and row crop production, financing, supply and service, cooperatives, wood products industry and agribusiness.


  • Jeff Aiken, Telford
  • Steve Bennett, Thompson Station
  • Barry Brandstetter, Memphis
  • Mike Brundige, Martin
  • Mark Burnett, Pikeville
  • Brent Carter, Fayetteville
  • Tim Chowning, Springfield
  • Don Collier, Seymour
  • Amy Delvin, College Grove
  • Mike Estes, Murfreesboro
  • Bobby Goode, Nashville
  • Steve Harrison, Loudon
  • Johnny Heard, Collinwood
  • Willis Jepson, Orlinda
  • Renea Jones-Rogers, Unicoi
  • Dwight King, Piney Flatts
  • Bart Krisle, LaVergne
  • John Lindamood, Tiptonville
  • Eric Maupin, Dyersburg
  • Eric Mayberry, Hurricane Mills
  • Jimmy Moody, Dyersburg
  • Ben Moore, Dresden
  • Reyes Rich, Moss
  • Chelsea Rose, Hickman
  • Ray Sneed, Covington
  • Jimmy Tosh, Henry
  • Catherine Via, Bells
  • Stephen Worley, Hampshire